This week on Build Your Foundations, we will be discussing Trauma with a Capital T. We were hoping that the Mental Health Pause we have been taking in the month of August would be insightful to our fans and would help encourage you to pursue your own mental wellbeing. What we did not realize was how our own insights have changed and memories that have been deeply hidden have come to the forefront.
On the subject of Trauma with a Capital T, I have reached out to people I know personally to see if they would be willing to share their personal trauma stories on Build Your Foundations. One friend kindly declined as she said she has maybe shared this trauma with 4 people in total and was not ready to share her story in public.
Another friend has been sharing her story with those nearest to her, meeting with her therapist to process and heal but has also realized that for the time being, she will not get the closure she is seeking but has been learning to have better boundaries with herself and others in order to keep from being triggered.
These are their stories to share when they are ready and able to. What I have realized is that because of their Capital T trauma, their entire lives have been affected. Incidences that occurred when they were a baby, a 6-year-old, as a college student on Spring Break, these moments in their lives have been etched into their limbic systems and the memories have been carried into every fiber of their physical, emotional, and mental being. Every action and reaction is now dictated by their traumas and many of my friends have been learning to live with their truth, their trauma, and starting their journey towards the process of healing.
My Own Trauma with a Capital T
As I was writing the last paragraph a memory was triggered. One I had not thought much on. But the pieces are now falling together.
You see, months ago, I was watching an episode of A Million Little Things and this episode was one of a high school student who was getting private tutoring to help her qualify to attend a special music program. As I was watching the scenes unfold, it was clear what was happening and how it was going to play out. The young girl, naïve, trusting of her teacher, took the word of her teacher to develop her stage presence. She was told to wear her bathing suit and perform the song she wrote. She was told that this will build her confidence as she stops worrying about what others were thinking. She clearly wasn’t comfortable but trusted that her instructor, who has helped many others get into the program she wanted to attend, knew what he was doing. As I watched this episode, I was triggered. I did not know why but I was deeply bothered by this scene that I wept as the show ended.
I didn’t understand why I was responding this way but after having been through therapy, wanted to take the time to see what my mind and body were trying to communicate to me. I was so bothered that I started combing through my childhood memories. I started to question if I was molested as a child and could not come up with one situation to give a reason why I was reacting so much to the tv show. I even talked this over to my friend who was molested as a child, the same friend who had started to do trauma work and encouraged me to start my journey when my aunt passed. I told her about the television scene and my reaction to it and what I have been doing in order to figure out why I reacted to this scenario in tears. Eventually, I had forgotten about the situation.
Uncovering Lost Memories
As I started writing today and wrote the line about “as a college student on Spring Break”, the memories started coming back. A situation I did not even acknowledge as a trauma with a Capital T when it happened because I was already processing other traumas. I was not a college student on Spring Break. She was someone I met while as a volunteer counselor for the Rape Crisis Center. It was my senior year at the university. I was attending school full-time while working at a transitional homeless shelter, taking shifts at the Rape Crisis Center as a counselor and advocate for survivors, and working two other part-time jobs with a local security company and helping out with a “mom and pop” retail shop in town. My parents had their hands full with my father’s cancer so for me to finish college, I was paying my own way and working as much as I could.
Today, as the memory is coming into focus, I acknowledge, sit with, and process what I have tucked away over 25 years. I now remember that I was sexually assaulted by my boss, the “pop” of the mom and pop shop, someone in power, who under the guise of helping me, manipulated me and assaulted me. I did not even recognize that I was assaulted until today. I did not know I had permission to call this an assault 25 years ago. I did not know how to name it but my body, my mind, and my soul knew what had happened to me was wrong and that it should not have happened.
As mentioned, my dad was dying of cancer. We were four years deep in his illness and his death was imminent. I was going to school full time, working one too many jobs, and did I mention that I had recently broken up with my college boyfriend and was mourning that loss as well? My mind and body were on sensory and survival overload. Between my own personal traumas and watching the trauma of my homeless clients or those who were processing their own sexual assaults playing out before my eyes on a daily basis, I did not equate what happened to me as a sexual assault but my body, my mind, and my soul knew and had tucked it away for the right time to be uncovered and met with care and compassion.
Realization and Healing
Today, I realize that the tv show was resonating with my heart, mind, and body because the young woman in the show was grieving the recent loss of her father, trying to do what she had to do in order for her to get into the music program and was taught to trust authority figures and not question whether what they are saying or doing is wrong. I too was conditioned not to question authority especially when they seem to want to help me. But let’s call it what it is. It is abuse. In these situations, it was sexual abuse by a person of power taking advantage of someone who was not able to object and manipulating the situation for their benefit while harming the other. As my memory has now been stirred and the truth has now come to the forefront of my mind, will I now need time to process this trauma and will my response to the trauma be like Simone Bile’s reaction to acknowledging the harm done to her by Larry Nassar? I do not know. If I had not already started my journey to heal from my traumas, it may. In due time, I will know for certain how I have responded but for now, I will allow the emotions, the thoughts, whatever it may be to bubble up, to sit with, to self soothe, to acknowledge the harm was done, and process with the tools I have been given in my therapy sessions. I can grieve with and grieve for the young woman I was at the tender age of 22 who went into self-protection mode and could not even call the sexual assault what it was and hid the memory away until today. And as I breathe life into this memory and give voice to the 22-year-old, I hope it will be your courage if anything like this happened to you.
I want to thank you for reading and listening as I have had the opportunity to share with you my stories. I hope this encourages you to give voice to your memories and give yourself the margin to acknowledge and start the healing process. At Build Your Foundations, we want to encourage everyone to get the help they deserve. If any of this resonates with you or you would like to explore your options on your healing journey, please reach out to us. We want to provide a safe and confidential space for you.